The sound of listening

Have you ever experienced this feeling that you are talking and talking and nobody seems to understand what you say? If so, this article about why to listen may be interesting for you.

A wall between us

Our ability to communicate complex information between individuals makes us humans a special tribe on this planet. But surprisingly often we find ourselves misunderstood and lonely with all the buzzing information in our head. It seems as if there is a wall that makes communication among us harder than expected.

Are we on the same page?

Looking at recent research from neuroscience on how our brain stores and processes information, it seems even more astonishing that communication of complex information among humans is possible at all. There is no absolute representations of the observable things out there, only subjective representations. For instance if I talk about the blue sky in this article, I cannot presume how you, dear reader, perceive this very blue sky. When we talk about a blue sky we are using identical symbols of language, but have no other common grounding than the presumption that we hopefully mean the same thing. In many cases this presumption works, since the use of the symbols is based on sharable observations, but in many cases it goes wrong. When we enter a new community or profession, we are used to hear new words, but we are not trained to check if the known words we hear in this new context are used in the same way as we use them…

Listen before responding

The best strategy to avoid this fallacy in communication is to collect as much information as possible about the context of a communicated statement in order to ensure that both parties are talking about the same thing. And this collection is best done by listening.

There is this one outstanding TEDxSanDiego talk by William Ury about listening. Beside some interesting anecdotal statements, the talk is so inspiring, that you want to go out, grab the next person available and listen to all its hidden stories.

How to listen

The core of the talk is about how to listen. Ury elaborates on how listening will improve your communication with friends, family and others immediately. The focus of listening should be moved from hearing the words and checking where to agree or disagree, or planning what to respond to the words.

Why is it so hard to listen?

However, intensive listening is permanently challenged by our brain’s mechanics. Our brain constantly scans all information that we are receiving and compares this input information with stored memories. Whenever a match is found, an impulse is created and the focus moves to this piece of memory. This constantly distracts us while listening to a speaker. Therefore one has to learn how to listen. However, it has to be mentioned that the TEDTalk does not disclose too much information about how to practice listening. It is time to try it out yourself!

Ury’s talk closes with a marvelous statement that underlines the potential behind listening for our private live but also for our societies:

“What if we choose our leaders based on their ability to listen, instead of talk”

I subscribe to this idea 🙂


Photo credit: Cover image by Pixabay

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About Dietmar Millinger

Dietmar has an IT background. The main interest focuses on consciousness in various forms, since this seems to be the biggest puzzle in our time. Private interests are scuba diving, running and the search for luck.

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